Federal Politics


Many years on, fire hazards are still being ignored

After our home and two others were destroyed by a fire which began in the overgrown brickworks in late 2005, we hoped the authorities would act to ensure there was little likelihood it would happen again, but feared they would not.

Predictably, fear has triumphed over hope.

As the houses were being rebuilt, authorities began to construct an access road in the brickworks behind our homes.

We told them even as they carefully and deliberately constructed a steep mound leading to the road that it would be too steep to mow, and the long grasses which were bound to return would soon impose another threat.

Guess what: they can't mow the mound, the grass is dry, thick and long, and it has been months now since they mowed the track itself, despite repeated requests to do so.

Why are we not surprised and why should we believe assurances improvements have been made (''Ten years on, we're better prepared'', January 11, p1), when evidence to the contrary is before us every day.


V. R. Woolcock, Yarralumla

Dam rap off mark

The Stanhope government was right to choose the larger Cotter Dam over the sewage reclamation project it called water2WATER (Letters, January 10).

A scheme similar to water2WATER might be the best alternative if we need to augment our supply in a generation.

Reclaimed water could then be added to a reservoir that, unlike the one it replaced, is not too small, is contained by a dam 100 years younger and has the potential to optimise not only the ACT's most productive catchment, but also the new water treatment plant that would supplement its inflows.

Jon Stanhope's criticism of Actew's implementation of the dam project is unwarranted.

His government appointed the managing directors and a board that for years did not include an engineer or a scientist.

It is likely that water2WATER was Stanhope's baby and his insistence that Actew continue to plan a reclamation plant is required.

The water2WATER plan was written off Actew's books at $18 million.

Had the Stanhope government not flirted with this project, we might already see a full, large Cotter Dam and a smaller bill for it.

John Bromhead, Rivett

Professor Peter Collignon (Letters, January 11) is deeply concerned from a health viewpoint that recycled water from sewage should nor be put in our drinking water for Canberra.

Apparently, it is perfectly OK to pass partially treated water into the river system to be used by others further down.

Peter Snowdon, Aranda

If Singapore can successfully recycle waste water, so can we, despite what a scare-mongering Professor Collignon might tell us.

Greg Baker, Giralang

According to Western Australia's water supply authority, Water Corporation, many major cities, towns and districts around the world recycle water to add to their drinking supplies, including Brisbane, Singapore and, in the United States, Orange County, suburbs of Washington DC, northern Virginia, Clayton County, Georgia.

The corporation's website goes on to explain the recycling process used.

Singapore's drinking water contains 30 per cent recycled water and my understanding is that the Lower Molonglo water treatment plant is of the same design, less a couple of stages of purification, one of them presumably being reverse osmosis.

Perhaps Professor Collignon could explain what specific problems have actually occurred in those places with a history of recycling sewage.

Keith Penhallow, Nicholls

Wrong medium

The ABC spokesman quoted in the article ''Concerns over lack of radio coverage to warn of emergencies'' (January 10, p3) appears not to be across the issue, which is quite simple. The station 666 ABC Canberra claims to be the emergency broadcaster for the ACT and surrounding NSW.

But radio reception for that station is poor to non-existent in much of that area (as he admits).

The spokesman appears to confuse radio with television, but you can't watch TV while preparing your property for a bushfire, or while driving.

If the ABC is now telling us to rely on national television channels rather than local radio, then I need to ask why it was rerunning an hours-old and very out-of-date interview with ACT Rural Fire Service chief Andrew Stark all through Tuesday, January 8, as ABC News 24 did.

The spokesman got one thing partly right: the roll-out of digital TV across the whole of Australia provided an opportunity for the federal government to fix the problem, but it fluffed it.

Digital TV and digital radio are apparently completely different technologies, and while I now have perfect digital TV reception, I have no digital radio reception, and probably never will.

Was it beyond the wit of government and technology to make digital radio available through the DTV network? I'm waiting for someone to claim the national broadband network will fix this problem - it almost certainly won't.

Peter Marshall, councillor,

Palerang Council

Pushed on rights

It seems Bruce Haigh wants to make Australian policy towards Sri Lanka the litmus test for all our diplomacy (''Australia can't afford to squander chance to do good at UN'', January 11, p15).

But he can't be allowed to get away with such a colossal inaccuracy as that when I met President Mahinda Rajapaksa I "said the human rights situation in Sri Lanka was fine", ignoring my departmental advice.

This is totally wrong.

The language I used in my meeting with the President was the language recommended by the department.

Indeed, official cables from our high commission record that I said to the country's President: "Australia needed to see clear and tangible progress by Sri Lanka against the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission and the Human Rights Action Plan. It was particularly important that Sri Lanka produced concrete results on issues including reconciliation and accountability. Concrete progress on reconciliation and other LLRC recommendations was a critical part of the way forward."

Nonetheless, we believe engagement with Sri Lanka is the way to advance human rights.

We've also ruled out a boycott of this year's Colombo CHOGM.

In this, too, my instincts accorded with the advice of my department.

Bob Carr, Foreign Affairs Minister

Nuclear negatives

Professor Leslie Kemeny, of the International Nuclear Energy Academy, comes up with some doozies in relation to nuclear power, but his claim that nuclear power can supply water for this arid land of ours takes the cake (''Nuclear is clean energy'', January 11, p15).

The nuclear-energy lobby really is off in fantasy land and trying to drag the rest of us along.

The water needs of nuclear power are enormous, and significantly more than every other form of energy.

BHP Billiton's uranium, copper and gold mine at Roxby Downs in South Australia has been drawing 35 million litres of water every day from the Great Artesian Basin, an unconscionable depletion of our most precious resource.

And that's just the mining phase.

In Europe, nuclear reactors have been periodically taken off-line during heatwaves, either because of water shortages or because their discharges of overheated water are hazardous to local aquatic life. Just what we need in these scorching temperatures.

Kemeny refers to generation-four reactors as these wondrous water-producing facilities.

However, they are decades away, if indeed they ever eventuate.

Many believe generation-four reactors will be, like so much hype from the nuclear industry, yet another broken promise. (Remember ''electricity too cheap to meter''?)

We need climate action now, with technologies that we know work.

Nuclear power for an increasingly hot, dry Australia? No thanks.

Why wouldn't we use the sun, which pours down energy in abundance onto this planet, and does not have an insatiable thirst ?

Dr Sue Wareham, Cook

Leslie Kemeny's article has completely missed the point.

There was no mention whatsoever of the dangers of spent nuclear fuel nor the fact that it takes hundreds of thousands of years for radioactive waste to be rendered safe.

Trading radioactive waste for carbon is no bargain in my book as natural systems will eventually process the carbon in benign ways over realistic time frames.

All we need to do is reduce our output of carbon and nature will clean up our mess.

But radioactivity? Nothing in human history has ever had to endure such long time frames and such a legacy for the thousands of generations needed to clean up this mess, keeping it safe and secure is abhorrent in my view.

An alternative nuclear process that might bring relief could be thorium reactors (for more information, see energyfromthorium.com).

But don't claim current fission reactors as a panacea for our energy needs without addressing the issues of nuclear waste.

Bill Hall, Page

Megaphone hero

Actually, H. Ronald (Letters, January 11), it's not so much Tony Abbott's strenuous efforts in assisting charities, teaching Aboriginal children, fighting bushfires, etc. that arouses our cynicism, it's his equally strenuous efforts to make sure we know about them that we find irritating.

Perhaps he could usefully bear in mind Alexander Pope's 18th century injunction: ''Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame.''

Bill Deane, Chapman


The naked truth

Climate-change deniers have so successfully moulded public opinion, in the interests of the few, that while a hotter, traumatised Australia burns (again), property, livelihoods, livestock and wildlife are destroyed, and courageous people risk lives, only iconoclastic Pope, in declaring the king naked, unambiguously pinpoints the cause (cartoon, January 9).

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW

In a bad cause

If Julia Gillard ever needs an in-house cartoonist to complement her speech writer, Pope of The Canberra Times is her man. The cartoon of January 8 is disappointing. Pursuing Gillard's ''misogynist'' line of attack on Tony Abbott, Pope uses the tragedy of bushfires to enter into a nasty zone that is unbecoming at a time of national stress.

John Bell, Lyneham

Just ask Blind Freddy

Anyone who believes the new light towers at Manuka Oval blend into the suburb of Manuka - as required by the National Capital Authority's design criteria (''Let there be light: Manuka ready for night shift'', January 10, p24) - must be parked on Red Hill with his head buried in a cloud of marijuana fumes.

Geoff Pryor, Narrabundah

Life's not a beach

At last, someone else has ''fessed up'' to an aversion to the beach (''Is it worth it?'', Times2, January 10, p1). I've never understood the attraction of the beach: my (Scottish) skin is cooked by each ray of sun; every crevice is irritated by every individual grain of sand; and I'm only able to walk through thick dry sand like I've only just learned to walk that very day. And that's on a good day, before the wind turns the beach into a giant sandblaster!

Gordon Fyfe, Kambah

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